ATTACCA

August 23, 2010

It is painful to see the New York Times blatantly misusing a musical term — through the agency of its Chief Music Critic, no less. The Italian word segue has been used in music scores since at least operas of the 18th century, in which such instructions as segue l’aria are common. The meaning is simply that the next musical item (in the example, an aria, most commonly after a recitative) follows immediately without anything intervening. The word attacca is a synonym. In a review of the final Mostly Mozart concert, however, we see the word used to mean exactly the opposite — music specially composed to join two elements:

Mozart even wrote some orchestral transitions as segues from arias to choruses.

It is not meaningless pedantry to protest such terminological malpractice in such a place.

For an example of correct employment of the term — a term whose meaning is too valuable to confuse with its direct opposite, for heaven’s sake — see this blog post.